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ATLANTA -- NBA official Bennett Salvatore admitted he made a mistake in ruling an inadvertent whistle rather than a foul on a three-point shot attempt by the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose late in Sunday night's Game 4 against Atlanta Hawks.
The play in question occurred with 2:27 left in the fourth quarter with the Hawks leading 90-84. Rose pulled up for a three-pointer and appeared to be fouled by Hawks guard Jamal Crawford. Salvatore blew his whistle, but said it was inadvertent and ruled a jump ball would take place at center court. The Hawks won the resulting tip and came down then floor and added to their lead.
"An inadvertent whistle is when a referee blows his whistle and didn't mean to. That's exactly what happened," Salvatore told a pool reporter. "I blew my whistle and didn't mean to, I didn't think it was a foul. Having watched the replay after the game, it was a foul and I should have called it. I made a mistake."
The Bulls bench erupted after the non-call and was still a little perturbed by it after the game.
"I got to look at the play again. I thought it was a foul," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "It is what it is."
Rose said he talked to Salvatore after the game, and the referee admitted his mistake."He told me that he messed up and that's the only thing he could tell me, but it was over with," Rose said. "You can't go back in time and shoot the free throws. But hopefully next time, whoever is in that position, I hope they make the right call."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was upset by the decision, but understood that officials make mistakes.
"At that time of the game, I've never seen that," Thibodeau said. "But look, Benett's a good official. He said he made a mistake. He's human. So that's what he did. He's a good official. He got him in the air, he came down on him. I thought it was a foul. But you know, sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn't."
Salvatore was upset that he made the error, especially at such a critical juncture in the game.
"I blew my whistle. I was positive it was not a foul," Salvatore said. "I blew my whistle by accident. Which is an inadvertent whistle. That's why I disallowed it ... Having watched replay. It was a foul. I made a mistake. I was wrong."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.